An underwater museum featuring six 10 ton sculptures has opened off the French coast after four years of development.
The museum is Jason de Caires Taylor’s first installation in the Mediterranean Sea and features 6ft sculptures portraying a number of locals including an 80-year-old fisherman, an entrepreneur, a curator and schoolchildren.
Each face is significantly upscaled and sectioned into two parts, the outer part resembling a mask. The theme of masks connects to the history of Île Sainte Marguerite, the island just off the coast of Cannes well known as the location where the Man with the Iron Mask was imprisoned. Cannes, through its famous annual film festival, is also well known for its relationship with the performing arts.
With all his projects, Jason aims to draw attention to the sea as a fragile biosphere in urgent need of protection. The split mask is a metaphor for the ocean. One side of the mask depicts strength and resilience, the other fragility and decay. From land, we see the surface, calm and serene, or powerful and majestic. This is the view of the mask of the sea. However below the surface is a fragile, finely-balanced ecosystem – one which has been continuously degraded and polluted over the years by human activity.
Placed at a depth of between two and three metres in crystal-clear waters, these artworks rest on areas of white sand, in-between oscillating posidonia sea grass meadows in the protected southern part of Sainte-Marguerite.
The location was previously an area of disused marine infrastructure; part of the project was removing marine debris such as old engines and pipelines to create space for the artworks, which have been designed using ph neutral materials to attract marine fauna and flora. The site has been cordoned off from boats, making it safe for snorkelers and divers and to prevent damage by anchors to the seagrass meadows.